When you’re 5-8 and freefalling to a third straight losing season, desperate times call for desperate measures and it can explain why the Cincinnati Bengals attempted to convert a trio of fourth downs in Sunday’s 26-21 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
On the first drive of the second half on fourth down and inches, Lewis opted to go for it from the Cincinnati 35. Instead of attempting a quarterback sneak with Jeff Driskel, Joe Mixon got the ball but when Los Angeles sent defensive backs to provide support, Mixon was stuffed and shortly thereafter Los Angeles kicked a field goal to go up 20-12.
“Fourth and four inches,” Lewis said a day after Cincinnati’s losing streak reached five games.
It was a frustrating component of one of Mixon’s best games. Mixon had a career-high 26 carries and finished with 111 yards, a respectable total but a frustrating one after being unable to convert the fourth down.
“You always try to get your best players the ball and I thought Joe did a nice job hitting the holes,” Driskel said after his second career start. “Even sometimes when there wasn’t much there, he created. I thought he ran hard. I thought he really battled and that was big for us today being able to run the ball effectively.”
Mixon’s showing allowed the Bengals to set a season-high in time of possession (32:38). It was the first time they ran more running plays (32) than pass plays (27) and the Bengals gained a season-high 144 yards on 4.5 yards per attempt but the one yard they did not gain came back to haunt them.
In his second game since Andy Dalton was lost for the season due to a thumb injury, Driskel was adequate enough, going 18 of 27 for 170 yards and a touchdown. He led the Bengals on a touchdown drive with 1:54 left but appropriately enough Driskel was sacked attempting to make the throw for the game-tying two-point conversion.
“I have to find a way to get them the ball whether it’s a get them the ball right now or make somebody miss and find somebody late,” Driskel said. “I just didn’t get it done. That happens in football and it just comes down to us not making enough plays as a unit.”
And because Mixon couldn’t get the extra yard and because they committed ill-timed penalties, the Bengals are now a last-place team.
They last finished in last place in the AFC North in 2010, a season that ended with 10 straight losses and a 4-12 record. They are on their third-longest skid since Lewis took over in 2003.
The inability to avoid mistakes or execute in key situations sent a once-promising season that began with four losses in five games spiraling to the basement.
“What you did last week doesn’t gain anything,” Lewis said. “We’ve got to go back and do it better and find a new way, find a better way.”
–LB Vontaze Burfict sat out Sunday’s game with a concussion.
–LT Cordy Glenn missed a second straight game with a back injury.
–CB Dre Kirkpatrick missed his second game of the season when he sat out Sunday’s loss to the Los Angeles Chargers with an ankle injury.
–LB Nick Vigil recorded three tackles in his second game back from an MCL injury in his knee.
–WR John Ross had a touchdown for the fourth time in five games on Sunday.
–CB Tony McRae missed his second straight game with a concussion.